If you’re looking for a little fine dining in Phenix City with a French-creole flair, Criolla on Sandfort Road is the place for you.
David Rushing bought the old barbecue restaurant building at 4100 Sandfort Road and turned it into a place where he can cook up a new menu every week.
“When I saw the place, I knew it was it. I didn’t set out to make it fine dining,” Rushing said. “I was gonna do a Cajun restaurant. No table clothes and serve Po Boys and all that. But I just can’t do it. I’ve done fine dining all my life. That’s what I like. I like the atmosphere. We pulled it off in Phenix City.”
Rushing started his career when he was 14 years old, washing dishes at the Light House in Panama City. He completed the culinary program at Gulf Coast Community College and began working in kitchens as a chef. He worked at the Columbus Country Club and Meritage Café. He’s been the chef for restaurants in Atlanta and Panama City for years. He helped open many restaurants. After Hurricane Michael in 2018, he and his family moved to Phenix City.
It took a year before Rushing opened Criolla. He is still adding to the restaurant to include a deck and courtyard.
“We’ll have a landscaped courtyard, a fireplace, a koi pond, and all that good stuff out there,” he said. There will be 20 tables on the deck and he wants to serve a basic menu for outdoor dining.
Inside, there are table clothes and a little ambiance. The menu changes weekly.
“Right now you’re in a situation where you don’t know what you’re paying for something every week. And you don’t know what you’re going to get. But that part is getting better,” he said.
But his customers tend to enjoy the chalk board menu that changes based on fresh ingredients. There is always seafood on the menu.
“We do a lot of seafood,” Rushing said. He hopes to have oysters more regularly.
Currently, the restaurant fills up on Friday and Saturday nights. Rushing suggests that hungry diners make reservations. Wednesdays and Thursdays are less crowded.
While restaurants weren’t able to open dining areas to customers during the COVID-19 shutdown, Rushing said a lot of people came through for takeout. Now, inside dining is increasing again.
“We are out and about. They want to come in. We did a good takeout business, but I hate putting my food in a box,” he said.
He’s been cooking for so long, Rushing said he doesn’t have a favorite dish to cook or to eat.
“When you do fine dining, you want a burger and fries. When you do burger and fries, you want fine dining,” he said.
When he’s not in the kitchen, Rushing enjoys golfing and fishing. He also has two sons, James, 9, and Jaxon, 7.
Keep up with Criolla on their website and Facebook. Rushing posts a new menu every week. This week, some of his menu includes blackened mahi mahi, blackened New York strip topped with a crawfish creole cream, seafood gumbo, and white chocolate tossed almond bread pudding.
Call 334-384-9990 for reservations.